Triple rim, broken rim, floppy rim, concrete rim. It rarely mattered to teenage kids hellbent on hooping come snow or Texas heat. Whether ballin’ during a heat advisory or voluntarily stepping into a driving rainstorm, we just had to find a rim.
Those moments feel like they will last forever until one day you find yourself as a middle-aged beat writer tending to three kids. You herd the little ones through the park and back to the minivan when your glance falls on a playground hoop.
And the ghosts of basketball past come flying back. Malecki’s skinny frame worming to the hoop… Swindle’s lanky arms fluttering like a bird celebrating yet another block… and you then recall, that maybe the rim mattered.
Because as I got closer to that basketball goal, I recognized my old nemesis. The triple rim. That rigid monster careened many a three-pointer out of bounds and offered “no shooter’s roll”. Why would anyone put themselves through such misery?
Single, Double, or Triple – Pick One, Any One
Three main rim systems prevail in modern basketball – single, double, and triple. Each of these offers a different level of rim rigidity and subsequently provides a hint of how prone one might be to throwing up bricks.
The official way of measuring rim energy absorption is the Fair-Court rim testing system. This system measures the anticipated deflection of the rim. Unfortunately, this testing system costs several thousand dollars. So not too practical for the playground.
A better way to approximate which rim is best? Start with the amount of steel. Single, double, and triple rims are the three standard options.
The single rim remains the mainstay of the backyard. Despite supplying only a single ring of metal, it provides good strength in most instances. Its ability to absorb shock varies tremendously. These rims tend to bend at the slightest touch or not at all.
To make matters more troubling, it’s hard to tell how much bounce the single rim provides from a glance at an e-commerce store or even at the local Academy.
The NBA, colleges, and most high schools prefer to use double rims. The double rim provides the standard for competitive play as well as more shock absorption and durability than the single version.
Being the double rim is the standard of rim play, it has a well-established standard for flex via the Fair-Court rim testing standard. Rim flex should be between 35 and 50% per NCAA standards as well as being within 5% of each other for rims on the same court.
The triple rim is a visual absurdity. Not 1, not 2, but 3 rings of steel to prevent damage from aggressive dunks. Whereas the double rim’s standards require predictable deflection, the triple rim simply provides an amped-up dose of steel.
It also lacks the precision engineering of a double rim. It’s there to combat not only massive dunks, but hoodlums hanging for no reason at all.
As such, the triple rim is beholden to no measurement.
The Triple Rim Experiment
Multi-thousand dollar testing system be damned, there’s only one way to know if the triple rim system and its famous tendency to brick shots were overhyped or backed up anecdotally.
Shoot a bunch of baskets.
I return to the park a few days later. My goal? Shoot until I missed 50 free throws. I would observe the bounce out and see how many could rightfully be blamed on the triple rim.
To accumulate 50 misses didn’t take as long as I hoped. But once I hit that milestone, I could rightfully attribute only four misses to aggressive rim rigidity. Furthermore, there was at least one shot that went in due to the rigid rebound of the triple rim.
I shot a few more at close and three-point range for good measure. All in all, the triple rim wasn’t the catastrophe I remembered.
But assuming my back-of-the-envelope math is right, the triple rim was responsible for three overall misfires in addition to the 47 misses that would have occurred on a healthy single rim or a regulation double rim.
That means a standard triple rim conceivably reduces a shooter’s accuracy by 6%. That feels a little punitive. And of course, results may vary. Run this experiment again and there’s a conceivable scenario where I miss 50 times and not once could it be attributed to the triple rim.
Should You Buy a Triple Rim?
There’s a school of thought that all those gobs of steel make you better. It teaches you to be more precise. Mistakes are punished.
Hmm…maybe…But I’m not buying it. If you are installing a backyard hoop, you want one that provides a strong shooter’s roll. You want a rim that coaxes your off-balance fadeaway through the net and makes your buddies cry, “not cool man!”
That’s not the triple rim. The triple rim is there to dissuade a 6’5″ 285 pounder from taking the whole thing down with a show-stopping dunk. And maybe that’s you.
But if it’s not, a standard well-made single rim is the right ticket. It’s cheap yet well-made and perfectly suitable for a backyard or driveway.
I’ll always miss those hoops til you pass out days in the oppressive Houston heat. But the triple rim’s heavy bricks are one memory I’m happy to put behind me.